Vatican Service (Fides Service) – “England and Wales, despite being steeped in a rich Christian heritage, today face the pervasive advance of secularism. At the root of this situation is the attempt to promote a vision of humanity apart from God and removed from Christ. It is a mentality which exaggerates individualism, sunders the essential link between freedom and truth, and consequently destroys the mutual bonds which define social living”. This was a passage of Pope John Paul II’s address to Bishops of England and Wales when he received them for their ad limina visit on 23 October. “This loss of a sense of God is often experienced as “the abandonment of man” - the Pope said - Social disintegration, threats to family life, and the ugly spectres of racial intolerance and war, leave many men and women, and especially the young, feeling disoriented and at times even without hope. Consequently it is not just the Church which encounters the disturbing effects of secularism but civic life as well.”
In these times of bewilderment, the faithful look to their Church leaders with great expectation to preach and teach the Gospel which dispels the darkness and illuminates the way of life. “The phenomena of secularism and widespread religious indifference, the decline in vocations to the priesthood and Religious Life, and the grave difficulties experienced by parents in their attempts to catechise their own children, all attest to the vital need for Bishops to embrace their fundamental mission to be authentic and authoritative heralds of the Word” the Pope told the Cardinals. The new millennium demands new impetus in Christian living, as the Pope said in his apostolic exhortation Novo Millennio Ineunte: “If the Church is to satisfy the thirst of men and women for truth and authentic values upon which to build their lives no effort can be spared in finding effective pastoral initiatives to make Jesus Christ known… the great challenge facing us is to make the Church the home and school of communion” where there is “authentic pedagogy on prayer, persuasive catechesis on the meaning of liturgy and the importance of the Sunday Eucharist, and promotion of the frequent practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation”.
The Pope then stressed the importance of evangelising culture with regard to the Church’s teaching on marriage, relations with the media and Catholic schools: “Of particular concern is the need to uphold the uniqueness of marriage as a lifelong union between a man and a woman in which as husband and wife they share in God’s loving work of creation. Equating marriage with other forms of cohabitation obscures the sacredness of marriage and violates its precious value in God’s plan for humanity”. With regard to the media John Paul II underlined that “the fundamental moral requirement of all communication is that it should respect and serve the truth” . Mentioning the men and women engaged in the media the Pope said: “Invite them to join you in breaking down barriers of mistrust and in striving to bring peoples together in understanding and respect.” Lastly the Pope acknowledged “the fine contribution of Catholic schools” and made a “special appeal to your Religious not to abandon the school apostolate and indeed to renew their commitment to serve also in schools situated in poorer areas.”
(Fides Service 24/10/2003 EM lines 40 Words: 562)